Pasco will soon be open for business to all smartphone-based car service companies.
But don’t go opening your Uber app just yet.
An ordinance approved Monday night by the Pasco City Council requires fingerprinting for drivers of both taxis and transportation network companies.
Uber refuses to work with a city that has a fingerprint requirement.
So while it’s likely the San Francisco company won’t be signing an agreement with Pasco any time soon, council members are hopeful other entrepreneurs will jump at the chance to fill the city’s Uber void.
Mayor Matt Watkins asked staff to send out a letter to known transportation network companies in the state, including Uber and Lyft, advising them of the change in the Pasco Municipal Code and the new regulations.
In a conversation with Uber earlier Monday, a Pasco official was reminded by a company executive that fingerprints are a deal-breaker.
That means while Uber drivers can continue to pick up passengers anywhere else in the Tri-Cities, they can only drop them off in Pasco.
People who need a ride in Pasco, whether from the airport or another location, will need to reach out to another ride-hailing service licensed in the jurisdiction.
The council voted 4-3 to greenlight transportation network companies within city limits. Up to this point, only taxicab companies were allowed to operate in Pasco, and their drivers had to be fingerprinted.
This is the fifth time in just over three months that the issue was debated by the council.
Councilman Tom Larsen, who previously voted against the motion, went in favor of the fingerprint clause this time.
The “no” votes came from Councilmen Saul Martinez, Bob Hoffmann and Chi Flores.
The trio have said repeatedly that they understand and respect the city wanting to protect community members by fingerprinting for-hire drivers.
However, they believe customers should be given the option to get a ride at a more inexpensive rate, even though the councilmen admit being disappointed in Uber for taking the hard stance.
The council voted 4-3 to greenlight transportation network companies within city limits. Up to this point, only taxicab companies were allowed to operate in Pasco and their drivers had to be fingerprinted.
“With the citizenry that we have here who has demonstrated that they really want the service, and with the impact it’s going to make on our tourism, and because we have the airport here and because Kennewick and Richland have already passed it,” Martinez said, “I think it’s going to be more of a negative impact on our community by not allowing them to come in and provide that service.”
Martinez, Hoffmann and Flores were in favor of an alternative ordinance that deleted the fingerprint requirement for transportation network company drivers and left it in place for taxi drivers.
Flores encouraged the council to revisit the issue next year in case “we’re not getting any traction with TNCs out there.”
City Manager Dave Zabell said the changes and regulations should be implemented within the next week or so. City staff will give a written report reviewing the ordinance in six months, followed by another update at the one-year mark.
“The council was very deliberate in their conversations about TNCs in Pasco,” Zabell said in a news release, “and their decision to allow companies like Uber to operate in the city with only a minor additional requirement helps ensure public safety.”
It is a one-time $5 fee for drivers to get fingerprinted at the Pasco Police Department.
Chief Bob Metzger has said that since his signature will go on the business license, he wants to be able to ensure passengers are getting into a car with a driver whose identity and background is verified by police.
Councilman Al Yenney, who made the motion Monday to approve the proposed ordinance, noted that transportation network companies like Uber are not doing a good job of being corporate citizens.
“I think this is something we need, to make sure we have a little control over the drivers,” he said. “I do realize it’s a service that’s needed.”